Illicit (1931)

Genres - Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Marriage Drama  |   Release Date - Feb 14, 1931 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 81 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Hans J. Wollstein

"Nearly every girl I know is either unhappily married or unhappily divorced," a no-nonsense Barbara Stanwyck tells prospective father-in-law Claude Gillingwater in an early scene in this frank society drama from Warner Bros. Despite rumors of an illicit affair with handsome James Rennie, Gillingwater's son, Stanwyck remains doubtful of whether marriage is for her. And amazingly to viewers accustomed to post Production Code films, there is indeed an illicit affair going on here, what with Miss Stanwyck and her prospective groom lounging about at all hours in their night attire. They do of course get married but almost immediately lose that special spark that comes with a new romance. Rennie begins to dally with mature femme fatale Natalie Moorhead and Stanwyck, despairing at being turned into the shrewish wife, demands that they start afresh, and in separate apartments. Needless to say, the couple come to their senses before the obligatory happy ending, but that didn't pacify scores of local censorship boards, some of whom refused to permit even the film's title. Borrowed from Columbia and suffering a slight case of miscasting, Barbara Stanwyck nevertheless gives yet another of her patented standout performances, adding a bit of street smarts to her Long Island debutante. She is matched in most scenes by the unfairly forgotten James Rennie, a stage actor from Canada, who is best remembered today as the husband of Dorothy Gish. Based on a risqué 1930 play by Edith Fitzgerald and Robert Riskin, Illicit was remade by Warners in 1933 as Ex-Lady, this time starring Bette Davis.